Discover 1,200 Romantic and Victorian literary treasures, new insights by 60 experts, 25 documentary films, 30 inspirational teachers’ notes and more. Discovering Literature has been supported since its inception by Dr Naim Dangoor CBE, The Exilarch's Foundation.

Featured articles

  • Great Expectations and class

    Class mobility in Great Expectations

    Professor John Bowen discusses class and social mobility in Charles Dickens’s novel, Great Expectations. Filmed at the Charles Dickens Museum, London.

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    Walking the landscape of Wuthering Heights

    Situating Emily Brontë in her hometown of Haworth – a small Yorkshire mill town surrounded by moors – Professor John Bowen reflects on the representation of landscape in Wuthering Heights.

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    Oliver Twist: a patchwork of genres

    Oliver Twist: a patchwork of genres

    Dr Claire Wood examines how Dickens blends multiple genres in Oliver Twist, including melodrama, the Gothic, satire and social commentary.

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    Jack the Ripper

    Jack the Ripper

    The unidentified killer known as Jack the Ripper murdered a series of women in the Whitechapel area of London during 1888. Judith Flanders explores how the excitement and fear surrounding the mysterious murderer made its way into late-Victorian literature.

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  • Iain Sinclair on William Blake

    William Blake’s radicalism

    Iain Sinclair explores the historical background to William Blake’s radical writings. Filmed on the South Bank of the River Thames, Vauxhall, London.

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    Penny dreadfuls

    The penny dreadful was a 19th-century publishing phenomenon. Judith Flanders explains what made these cheap, sensational, highly illustrated stories so popular with the Victorian public.

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    Understanding Alice

    Understanding Alice

    Professor Kimberley Reynolds explores how Lewis Carroll transformed logic, literary traditions and ideas about childhood into the superbly inventive and irreverent Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

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    John Keats and ‘negative capability’

    John Keats and ‘negative capability’

    Stephen Hebron explores Keats’s understanding of negative capability, a concept which prizes intuition and uncertainty above reason and knowledge.

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  • Aestheticism and decadence

    Aestheticism and decadence

    ‘Art for art’s sake’? Aestheticism and decadence shocked the Victorian establishment by challenging traditional values, foregrounding sensuality and promoting artistic, sexual and political experimentation. Dr Carolyn Burdett explores the key features of this unconventional artistic period.

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    Deathbed scenes in fiction

    The deathbed is an iconic scene in Victorian fiction. Professor John Mullan considers its potential for sentimentality and satire.

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    Looking at the manuscript of William Blake’s ‘London’

    Looking at the manuscript of William Blake’s ‘London’

    In his poem ‘London’ William Blake explores poverty, revolution and the power of the imagination. Dr Linda Freedman examines the original draft manuscript, to discover the meanings behind this iconic poem.

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    Daughters of Decadence: The New Woman in the Victorian fin de siècle

    Daughters of decadence: the New Woman in the Victorian fin de siècle

    Free-spirited and independent, educated and uninterested in marriage and children, the figure of the New Woman threatened conventional ideas about ideal Victorian womanhood. Greg Buzwell explores the place of the New Woman - by turns comical, dangerous and inspirational - in journalism and in fiction by writers such as Thomas Hardy, George Gissing and Sarah Grand.

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Themes

From Romantic poetry to Gothic horror, from depictions of poverty and industrialisation to portrayals of the middle classes, and from crime fiction to fin de siècle decadence: the literary works of the Romantic and Victorian periods, and the contexts in which they were written, offer a wealth of topics to explore.

Fin de siècle

How did the literature of this period reflect attitudes to gender, sexuality, immigration, class and scientific discovery?

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The Gothic

The Gothic

What characterises Gothic literature and what does it reveal about the periods in which it was written?

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Power and politics

How did writers respond to the tumultuous political events of this period?

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Reading and print culture

How did rising literacy rates, libraries and new technologies influence the literature people read?

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The novel 1832 - 1880

The novel 1832 - 1880

How did the iconic writers of this period experiment with fantasy, sensationalism, realism and social commentary?

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Childhood and children's literature

Childhood and children's literature

Was children’s literature intended to entertain or instruct?

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Works of literature

Oliver Twist

Created by: Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens’s (1812 – 1870) second novel, originally published in serial parts 1837-9, and as a ...

'The Masque of Anarchy'

Created by: Percy Bysshe Shelley

A poem written by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822) in 1819. In August of that year, a huge but peaceful ...

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Created by: Lewis Carroll

This fantasy novel of 1865 was originally entitled Alice’s Adventures Under Ground. It was written by the ...